Paratroopers Take Down Adhamiyah Terrorists

By Mike Pryor

(From left) Army Pvt. Sam Feldman, Army Sgt. Eric Meinhardt and Army Spc. Martin Garza, paratroopers with Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, prepare to raid the house of a suspected pimp and gun-runner in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah district.

Photo by Mike Pryor / DoD Photo

On the surface, the market seems perfectly ordinary. Men outside the shops gather to play dominoes, smoke, and drink tea. On hot afternoons, an ice cream stand does a brisk business. But in the dark back rooms of some of the shops, murderous plans are hatched.

It’s called the Fish Market, a seemingly benign marketplace in the Graya’at area of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah district. But according to 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers responsible for security in the area, it’s also the nexus for Adhamiyah’s criminal-terrorist underground.

Since paratroopers from 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment began conducting security operations in Adhamiyah two months ago, residents have consistently pointed them back to the Fish Market as the source of much of the region’s criminal activity. Over time, the paratroopers narrowed in on a handful of individuals based at the market who they believed were responsible for some of the worst crimes. They even gave them a nickname: “The Fish Market Five.” Now it’s the "Fish Market Three."

In simultaneous, early-morning raids Mar. 31, paratroopers from Battery B, 2-319th AFAR captured two members of the Fish Market Five and detained three other suspects for questioning.

One of the detainees was a suspected lieutenant in a murder, torture and kidnapping cell. The other was allegedly one of the leaders of a group responsible for sniper and bomb attacks on U.S. forces. Three other suspects were also taken into custody during the raids.

The raids took place within minutes of each other shortly after one in the morning.1st Lt. Josh Rowan, of College Station, Texas, whose platoon led the assault on one of the homes, said the point of conducting the raids simultaneously was to catch the targets off guard.

“Our intent was to go out and capture these guys at the same time, so that one guy didn’t have a chance to warn the other guy,” Rowan said.

The kidnapper was taken into custody first, when paratroopers shotgun-blasted his door open and hauled him out of bed in his underwear. Two other unidentified males staying in the house were also detained. In addition to kidnapping and murder, Rowan said the target of the raid had a hand in numerous other criminal activities, including pimping and gun-running.

“He’s like a renaissance man of terrorism,” said Rowan.

A few blocks down the street from where Rowan’s platoon was conducting their raid, 2nd Lt. Larry Pitts and his platoon were about to hit the bomb-maker’s house. Emerging from the cover of a palm grove thicket, they crept through the streets until they found the house they were looking for.

Pitts quietly unlatched the front gate and they moved inside the courtyard. When they were set, the breach man blew the front door open with a shotgun blast and the assault squad rushed in. The suspect went quietly, and it was all over in minutes.

As he was supervising the search of the kidnapper’s house, Rowan got the call over his radio that the other platoon had got their man.

“Nice. Two for two,” he said.

The raids were the return on months of investigative work. It took countless hours spent meetings with residents, cultivating sources, and painstakingly piecing together information before it finally paid off, said Sgt. Billy Davison, a team leader with Battery B from Texarkana, Texas. But Davison said the final results made it all worthwhile.

“It was all worth it in the end,” he said.